Does prayer make a difference? (Part 2)

Sometimes it takes a story to help us realize just how much of a difference prayer makes.

We have friends in India who picked two villages to visit. One of the villages they prayed for and the other they did not. When they later went in to proclaim the good news of Jesus, the village they had not prayed for threw them out. In the other village, the one they had prayed for, 45 families became believers.

We so easily take prayer for granted without realizing its incredible potential power.

Indian village

 

Photo Credit: Rishu83 via Compfight cc

Does prayer make a difference? (Part 1)

A number of years ago, an experiment was performed by a church in Phoenix, Arizona.

They randomly selected 160 names from the local phone book and divided them into two, 80 in each group.

The first group was prayed for daily by their team of intercessors. The second group was not prayed for.

After 90 days, all 160 homes were called by members of the intercessory team. They identified themselves and asked for permission to stop by and pray for the family and any needs they might have. Of the 80 homes that were not prayed for, one person invited them to come in. Of the 80 homes that had been prayed for, 69 invited someone to come over, and of the 69, 45 invited them to come in.

Prayer makes a difference!

(Story comes from Alvin Vander Griend in The Praying Church Idea Book by Douglas A. Kamstra)

Praying the price (part 2)

Are we praying the price?

David Watson, whose book Contagious Disciple Making: Leading Others on a Journey of Discovery I featured here, once asked his top 100 church planters–those who were starting at least 20 churches per year–a series of questions to find out the common elements among them. They found many similar factors, but there was only one present in every team: a high commitment to prayer.

Here’s what is described in the book:

These leaders spent an average of three hours per day in personal prayer. They spent another three hours in prayer with their teams every day. These leaders were not all full-time religious leaders. In fact, most of them had regular jobs. They started their days at 4:00 a.m., and by 10:00 a.m. were at work.

These top performers also spent one day per week in fasting and prayer. The whole team spent one weekend per month in fasting and prayer.

One group had started more than 500 churches the previous year.

I’m not talking about legalism here; we cannot earn a move of God. But I firmly believe we will not see the move of God we long for in this country without praying the price.

Children praying

Photo Credit: amslerPIX via Compfight cc

How to catch a virus

There’s a virus that going around the world. It’s a dangerous virus that could change your life. Unlike most other viruses, I hope you catch it.

This virus is the 10:2b virus. It comes from Luke 10 and verse 2.

These were his instructions to them: “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.

The 10:2b virus started when a couple of friends of ours, John White and Kenny Moore, were discussing one morning over breakfast how to find more church planters for their state. As they chatted, they remembered the verse in Luke 10 where Jesus commanded the disciples (both the 12 and the 72) to pray the Lord of the harvest to send out more laborers into the harvest. They decided to try it for a week–calling each other daily on the phone. The week extended into months and eventually years of prayer together on a daily basis.

The results were so life-changing in terms of the number of people starting churches in their state as a specific answer to this prayer, they knew it needed to spread.  And so the idea of the Luke 10:2b virus was born. As John and Kenny told their story everywhere, others joined them, praying in pairs daily over the phone that the Lord of the harvest would thrust out more laborers into the harvest. Many people set the alarm on their phone for 10:02 am or pm to remind them to pray.

Luke 10:2 comes from Jesus teaching to his disciples on how to reach out to others. Luke 10 is a foundational passage for disciple-making and church planting movements around the world.

  • According to Jesus, the problem isn’t the harvest.   In another place, Jesus says to the disciples, “You say there are still 4 months left until harvest, but I tell you, the harvest is ready now” (paraphrase of John 4:35).  We give God excuses as to why the harvest isn’t ready–”My area is too hard, no one is interested,”  As soon as I finish this, (think of an excuse) I’ll go out and find a ripe field.”  But the Lord of the harvest says, “Now’s the time!”
  • The real problem is too few workers.  But hold on.  Jesus had 72+12= 84 workers.  That’s 42 pairs of people who were going out into the harvest.  Surely that’s enough!  If we had that number of committed church planting teams here in our area, we’d be thrilled.  But according to Jesus, that’s inadequate for the task.  It reminds me of the old story.  How do you get a herd of cows to produce more milk?  Do you feed them better food, give them extra vitamins, play them soothing music in their stalls?  That might help a little (well the food and vitamins, anyway).  No, the best way to significantly increase milk production is to add more cows to your herd!  It’s a bit like this here.  It’s easier to see more harvest by increasing the number of workers than by trying to persuade the existing ones to work harder or smarter.  
  • Jesus’ solution to the problem is this:  Pray the Lord of the harvest to send out more workers into the harvest.  We are to pray (beseech, beg) the Lord to send out more workers.  The Greek word used her for “send out” is ekballo which has an element of violence in it.  It’s the word used for casting out a demon. This is not a quiet, gentle prayer. It’s a violent, take it by force prayer.

We won’t see a disciple-making movement without a prayer movement.  

fireworks

Photo credit: Christophe Pasqual (Creative Commons)

You are a house of prayer: Guest post by Jared White

Some time ago, Jared White wrote a comprehensive and detailed review of  The Black Swan Effect: A Response to Gender Hierarchy in the Church. I was amazed and blessed at the amount of work he put into it–it might easily be the best review I’ve seenSince that time, he and I have corresponded over various matters. So when he offered to write a guest post for me, I jumped at the opportunity.

Here’s what Jared writes:

When you hear the phrase “house of prayer,” what do you think of? The famous scene where Jesus drove the money-changers out of the temple? Perhaps a special event at your church? Your own house? Pancakes…I mean, IHOP (aka the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, MO) or related movements?

Follow me on a little rabbit trail, and I’ll paint a picture for you that may surprise you.

When Jesus drove the money-changers out of the temple because of their greed and hypocrisy, he quoted from the prophet Isaiah:

“My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” (Isaiah 56:7)

The common understanding of this passage is that Jesus was referring to the Temple in Jerusalem since that’s where the incident took place. But this understanding is based on an Old Testament mindset, not a New Testament revelation of Jesus. Numerous times in the Gospels, Jesus prophesied about the nature of the Temple, and this is the what He said:

“Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” (Matthew 26:61, Mark 13:2, Mark 14:58, John 2:19)

Furthermore, Jesus foretold the destruction of the Temple, saying “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” What was Jesus talking about?

In A.D. 70, 37 years after Jesus’ death, the Temple in Jerusalem was demolished by the Roman army. To this day, there are no sacrificial offerings being made in a Hebraic Temple in Jerusalem. Thus, the temple Jesus referred to when He said “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” was not a building or a location. He was referring to Himself!

Yes, Jesus is the Temple! Indeed, He was destroyed by dying upon a Roman cross at the instigation of the religious authorities, and He was raised up on the third day by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Furthermore, the true date of the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem was not the year 70 (the time of its physical destruction), but the year 33 (the time of its spiritual conclusion). What am I talking about? At the moment of Jesus’ death, the veil in the Holy of Holies was ripped in two (Matthew 27:51, Mark 15:38, Luke 23:45), signifying the religious system as established in the Old Testament had been fulfilled in Christ as the complete and final sacrifice for all sin for all time, and that God’s Holy Presence would be with all of His people—now a Holy Priesthood offering spiritual sacrifices through Christ. (1 Peter 2:5)

There is much more to be said about the significance of this revelation, and the letter written to the Hebrews in the New Testament goes into it in great detail. It would be glorious indeed if our story stopped there and we grasped the magnificence of this doctrine that Jesus is both Temple and High Priest. But the story continues!

The Apostle Paul takes things a step further in his first letter to the church in Corinth. In the context of addressing divisions and jealousy in the church, Paul makes this startling statement:

“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17)

Crazy talk! What is Paul really saying? That you are the holy temple of God? You?!?! Not a church building, not a place to congregate, not a sacred altar in a sacred location, but you?

Incredible, isn’t it? Your very person, your very life, is a vessel which God prepares to receive Himself through the process of sanctification. When you believe in Jesus Christ and are born again by the power of the Holy Spirit, you are transformed into a sacred place, a dwelling place for the Divine.

Paul repeats this again a little later on, this time in the context of sexual immorality. Paul entreats the people in the church to glorify God in their bodies by fleeing from sexual immorality, saying “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

Now I realize that we all have at various times felt shamed or guilty due to this verse. It’s not a comforting thought to think of our messed up lives as a temple of God. “Gee God, your temple is looking pretty shabby and in disrepair.” But Paul reminds us that we were bought with a price. What price? “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” God loves us, even in the midst of our pain, our barrenness, our shame. It is Christ who cleanses us and makes us clean, not our own efforts. He paid a high price to make you His Temple, to make me His Temple.

So, a quick recap: Jesus Christ is the Temple, and as little christs (Christians), you and I are temples of the Holy Spirit. Which brings us back around to my original question: what do you think of when you hear the phrase “house of prayer” now? Here is what you should think of:

You!

Me!

Every Christian!

You are a house of prayer. There is no religious obligation to attend a house of prayer at your church or a “missions base” or anywhere else in order to commune with the Almighty. God has no desire to dwell in a house built by human hands. To the contrary, “the Most High does not dwell in houses made by hands” (Acts 7:48) but “we are His house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.” (Hebrews 3:6)

Now let me clarify, I am completely in favor of gathering together for prayer. To those saints who labor day and night in prayer meetings seeking the Lord, be blessed mightily in Jesus’ name! My point here is to present an ecclesiology which places a low emphasis on buildings and programs and events and a high emphasis on spiritual relationship and identity. Our very identity as Christians is that we are a house of prayer and we are God’s Temple. (2 Corinthians 6:16, Ephesians 2:21)

On a practical level, what does it mean to be a house of prayer? I’ll be honest with you. This is where I am still “in process” and learning what God wants me to know about this rich topic. I can say this, however—when this revelation of being a “house of prayer” first came to me, my prayer life which had previously been rather stagnant entered into a new renaissance! You see, I’d had this idea that prayer is something I do. Now, I’m beginning to realize that prayer is something I am. Before, I thought, I had to bring to God an impressive-sounding list of petitions and conjure up a lot of faith for Him to notice. Now, I simply bring myself and my heart. Prayer then is simply me and God being together, sharing each other — hopes, fears, concern for others, desire to love more, everything.

I’ll leave you with these verses to meditate on:

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (Romans 12:1)

“As you come to him [the Lord], a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 2:4-5)

“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” (Hebrews 10:19-22)

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About Jared

I am a writer, musician, visual artist, and dad. I regularly publish blog posts, essays, music, and art about the things I’m deeply passionate about on my website. Follow me on Twitter

Jared White

When Jesus “in-thunders”

[First of all, an apology to many of you who have made comments to other posts on my blog. The last few weeks have been crazy with the launch of The Black Swan Effect: A Response to Gender Hierarchy in the Church and I’ve just not had time to respond as I usually would.]

The other morning, I was reading John 11, the story of the raising of Lazarus, and I found myself weeping over the passage. My tears tied up with the depth of emotion expressed by Jesus at the situation. Here’s what verses 33-38 and 43 say in the NLT:

When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, a deep anger welled up within him,  and he was deeply troubled.  “Where have you put him?” he asked them.

They told him, “Lord, come and see.”  Then Jesus wept. The people who were standing nearby said, “See how much he loved him!”  But some said, “This man healed a blind man. Couldn’t he have kept Lazarus from dying?”

Jesus was still angry as he arrived at the tomb, a cave with a stone rolled across its entrance…  Then Jesus shouted,“Lazarus, come out!”

In this passage, Jesus has deep anger, is deeply troubled, is still angry and shouts!

On Friday, in the church that meets in our home, we broke into groups to study this passage. I decided to look up the meaning of the word translated “angry” in a Greek version. The word literally means, “in thundered!” Jesus was thundering inside. Was it the work of Satan he was thundering against? Death?

Strong’s Concordance and the Helps Word Studies gives the definition, “snort like an angry horse,” “roar with rage,” “express indignant displeasure.”

So our group spent some time praying with a young man who has a brain tumor (please pray for Jose. He’s undergoing another brain surgery today). We “in-thundered” against the tumor. (It was a noisy prayer-time!)

I think Jesus “in-thunders” over a number of things. I think he “in-thunders” over sickness and disease, poverty, injustice.

What do you think?

 Photo Credit: Sprengben [why not get a friend] via Compfight cc

Feet and forks, knees and mouth

As a former physician, I still maintain an interest in health. I recently read an article (I think it was probably by or about Dr. David Katz who is an authority on preventive medicine), stating we can reduce our lifetime risk of all chronic diseases by 80 percent with our feet, forks and fingers. That is, if we will exercise, eat right and not smoke.

What would be the equivalent of feet and forks in terms of seeing the moves of God that we long for? Just as with disease prevention, doesn’t it come down to the basics? How about knees and mouth? That is, prayer and telling our stories and Jesus’ story?

Feet and forks really only work if we take are intentional about using them. We have to make an effort to exercise, a decision to eat right. Just as preventive medicine only works if lifestyle choices become ongoing habits, I suspect that one-off prayers and witnessing occasionally, while good in themselves, will not produce the results we long for. However, a lifestyle composed of prayer, and deliberately going out of our way to share our faith with others will produce more fruit than just sitting around and hoping it will happen.

What do you think?